"Ask what you can do for your country"
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 2, 2020 - 12:00am

President John F. Kennedy, one of the greatest US presidents, in his inaugural address, did not only say “Ask not what your country can do for you”. He also added: “Ask what you can do for your country.” During this crisis, how about us? What can we do to help?

In bad times and in good, you can do something for your country, you can help your government. No matter how humble your position is, there’s always something good, useful you can do. In times of lockdown, stay home, wear your mask, keep physical distancing, and follow all health and safety protocols. You do this for yourself, but in so doing you also help your government fight the common enemy. In so doing you help your country save just one life and save the resources for testing, medication, and quarantine. When you follow the rules, you help maintain order, peace, and harmony in society and you preserve the good health and well-being of the community. You need to ask what you can do, you very well know what’s right and called for.

As a husband and father, you help your government by finding decent and honorable work to support your loved ones. By so doing, you don’t become a burden to society. You become part of the solution and not burden the nation. By being a good employee, by obeying company rules and lawful orders, you also help the government. A bad, disrespectful, recalcitrant, dishonest, and neglectful worker ends up being dismissed. And when he files a case before the DOLE or NLRC, he would add more caseload to the overburdened dockets of the labor agencies. He becomes part of the problem.

As a member of the community, if you don’t throw garbage everywhere, if you don’t spit or relieve yourself in any nook or cranny, you help maintain cleanliness and sanitation. You save the government cleaners from cleaning up the mess. If you follow traffic rules and obey frontliners manning the borders during lockdown, you don’t add more headaches to the authorities and thus, in your simple ways, you will help the government and society. If you follow protocols in taking public transport and refrain from jaywalking, you help keep order and harmony, thus you assist in maintaining peace and serenity.

You do not have to be killed in battle like Gregorio del Pilar or be shot in Luneta like Jose Rizal. You just do the right thing in the right place at the right time. If you walk and extra mile and go beyond expectations, that’s even better. I was a vice president of a global soft drink company getting almost half a million a month. But I left that comfortable job and accepted the call to be DOLE Undersecretary with a salary of only 10% of my corporate compensation. I asked to be demoted to Labor attaché to Malaysia. I put up a Sunday school training hundreds of maids in computer, hotel work, and basic Nursing. Now the maids are already office personnel in KL. I put up a scholarship sponsored by a Malaysian philanthropist. Now more than 20 former maids are already working as nurses. I went to Kuwait and helped maltreated women. And in Taiwan, I fought for the return of outrageous placement fees.

I was subjected to death threats, maligned, ridiculed, and charged with false accusations. But I stood tall, and unyielding because I did the right thing. I helped the poor OFWs. Yes, we can do something to help our country, even if it entails so much sacrifice. I have earned the right to be proud of what I did, because I did it for love of country. All of us can do something for our nation. Yes, if we want too, we can.

JOHN F. KENNEDY
Philstar
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